A jubilant Postmortem

Posted by By at 4 November, at 12 : 56 PM Print

In the wake, of yet another “historic” election the tendency over the next few weeks will be for pundits of

Scott Paterno

all stripes to breakdown why what happened, happened, what it means, and who gets the laurels and the thorns. And frankly, I am no different.

Elections tell us things about our society on a macro level — that it is important to ponder and evaluate if you have an interest in electoral politics, and public policy. As last night showed in vivid detail, misreading the meaning of an election can whack you – fast.

Some people figured that out and capitalized on it yesterday. Others did not.


Sam Smith, Speaker in waiting. Who had a better night than Sam? First, his party resoundingly retakes the majority, giving him an advantage unimaginable 24 moths ago. And he lost a major thorn in his side – and party milestone – when the Napoleonic John Perzel, trapped at waterloo, was finally fed glass chips by his constituents. I am not seeking to make light of John’s career — he did many fine things in his tenure. But as an indicted member of the House he could only serve as a potential distraction. Now Sam can move forward with at a minimum 17-vote edge.

Furthermore, Sam wins big because, with a suddenly strong caucus and, reportedly, the better relationship with the next Governor, he and the Governor can push through fiscal reforms farther and faster than perhaps the Senate might like. The first big showdowns will come quickly, as the newly ascendant House GOP, and their triumph field general Speaker Smith, look to deliver on the clear mandate of getting spending under control.

Charlie Dent. Don’t want to spend too much time on this race, because it was uneventful. Which is why I mention it. In a district, that Obama carried, running against a three time popular mayor in a moderate seat, Charlie kicked the crap out of John Callahan. This is significant because just 12 months ago this looked like a real race, with the DCCC finally getting Callahan – a very attractive candidate – to take a swing. With wins in 2008 (against a headwind) and 2010 (by 15 points against the chosen one), Dent has shown the campaign skills and political savvy to be an effective congressman from a purple district. Those skills would seem to translate well should Charlie like to follow his predecessor to the U.S. Senate in 2 years.

Ed Rendell, Minister without Portfolio. Was it me, or did Ed look less than distraught on Tuesday night? On one hand, I am sure he leaves with a pang of heart. But on the other he leaves with several positives in front of him: a role in the Obama administration, perhaps; a gig on Fox News – a place that would fit his “say-whatever-the-hell-occurs-to-me” style; or, dare we dream, next season of Dancing with the Stars? As that list shows, for the charismatic and colorful outgoing Governor, the world is his oyster.

And he still gets to be king, sort of. With Onorato relegated to also ran status, and DeWeese, McCall, Eachus, et al, essentially in the wilderness or worse, who is the head of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party? Ed, of course. Some might say that was just the way he intended it.

The NRCC. The Republican House committee did a stellar job this cycle. How can one argue with these wins: Kelly +11; Meehan +11; Fitzpatrick +7; Marino +10; Barletta +9. Those are big wins – in large part because these were solid candidates: prosecutors, businessmen, and former members of congress. That speaks to a clear understanding of Obama’s weakness in rural and blue collar PA, a strong recruitment effort, and well-run campaigns (for the most part). Amazingly, the GOP came about 7000 votes from picking up 2 more seats. As it is the delegation, now stands at flipped 12-7 GOP advantage – unthinkable just 24 months ago.

Tim Holden. You have to admire Tim. He was set up to fail 8 years ago and outworked George Gekas. He squeaked past Paterno in 2004 (look I see it my way – had 37,500 people changed their mind…yeah, yeah – he creamed me). He administered similar beat downs the next two cycles.

Then, in the midst of what was, in fact, a historic GOP wave, the Elephants finally recruited Dave Argall into the race. I will not be cynical and say Dave took a free swing, as he was not up for re-election. Rather, it appears that Dave was convinced that he might as well try, as this is probably the only environment in which Tim could lose.

No such luck. The GOP tide did cut into Tim’s usual 20-30 point win; he sweated out a 12 pointer. More importantly for the long term, the near total lack of fundraising for Dave is telling – if they weren’t writing checks for the most qualified (on paper) opponent since Gekas they wont be writing them for a Tim opponent again. Ever.


Sarah Palin. I am going to write more on this later, but at first blush, she was a fairly large dumpster fire for the GOP this cycle. Yes, she can point to Nikki Haley and she will beat her chest about the other down ticket races she may have influenced, but this fact is unavoidable: Harry Reid is in the Senate, and still majority leader because of her.

Harry Reid was elected over Sarah’s “Mamma Grizzly” in spite of a 60% unfavorable rating. That means he won 10-12 points worth of votes from people who didn’t like him.

Why does that matter? With unfavourables that high the seat was there for the taking, but for the quality of opponent on the ballot. The same was true in Delaware and Alaska – and with those three seats not only is Harry unemployed, Mitch McConnell would be majority leader. Sarah intervened in all three cases, and, as a result, the Senate stays in the hands of the Democrats.

This should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks Palin is a viable candidate in 2012 – in a cycle where independents broke overwhelmingly for the GOP, the three candidates she backed lost because independents in those jurisdictions rejected, in many ways, the Palin stamp.

Got to call them like I see them – just like the overall election was a repudiation of the Obama agenda whether he admits it or not, the rejection of Palin candidates by independents is a clear indication of her probable weakness in a general election should she claim the GOP nomination.

Penn Future. It’s been a nice run guys. Please collect your parting gifts at the door. They are, of course, compact fluorescent bulbs.

Was there ever an organization more tied to one administration than Penn Future? As they lose most favored status, the next few months are going to be a cold reality for the gang at Penn Future. Where once they could influence the House and the Governor, now they will find a nearly united front to ignore them. And their last ditch effort to get a shale tax that created a funding stream for themselves, mercifully, never came to pass. The days of Penn Future having an active seat at the table are over in 65 days.

Bob Casey. What once looked like the safest of seats now has a plethora of potential contenders for him in 2 years. The freshman class may seem too soon to jump, but don’t kid yourself – Meehan would have to consider it, as would Fitzpatrick. Throw in Charlie Dent – has anyone ever looked more like a Senator? – and you start to have a good field. And that is just scratching the surface. Casey will be formidable, but he also may be facing a significant headwind, and what seemed 2 years ago to be a solidly blue seat suddenly has a reddish-purple hue.

Philadelphia. All good things come to an end, Philly. With Governor Ed on the private payroll, and with the loss of the state house and with it Rep. Evans chairmanship of house Appropriations, things look bad. They are.

In fact, they are worse. The three architects of the GOP surge in the House are from the center and west. The Senate Pro Temps is from the west. The Governor is from da ‘Burgh. And worst of all, the power base of the Party that now controls the whole shooting match, top to bottom, is anywhere BUT the city of Philadelphia. If you were smart, you would T.O. the Commonwealth and do pushups until we trade you to Jersey or Delaware.

That may be extreme, but the fact is there will be a much harsher reception for those Philly RCAP projects.

These are, of course, just a few. I have left off John Perzel, Slurpee metaphors, and using “man up” as an effect debate tactic. Then again, those speak for themselves.

This post was written by:
- who has written 77 posts for Rock The Capital
Scott Paterno is an accomplished policy analyst and political consultant based in Hershey, PA. Mr. Paterno, never one to sit still, has practiced law, run for a house seat, and worked as lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington. Paterno is Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Fund and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science. He is happily married with three children. - Email scottp

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